Before I became a history teacher, I didn’t know much about history. But eight short months later everything has changed. Students often walk into my classroom and ask the very simple question, “What are you teaching us today?” The more accurate question, though, is: “What are we learning today?”
With a degree in advertising, I never thought being a teacher was really in the cards for me. Now I realize to teach is to empower. It’s not about knowing everything; it’s about utilizing your strengths. These three key guiding principles have translated into my personal success in the classroom:
1. Use What You Know
As an advertising major, I might not be able to tell you the intricacies of battle strategies for World Wars I and II. However, I can show students a piece of war propaganda and explain its message and purpose during the war. I can hypothesize why certain colors, fonts, and positions were used. In other words, I can use something familiar that’s exciting and meaningful to me to reach the same objective as a teacher who majored in history. From my experience, if I’m excited about a concept within history, my students are more likely to be, no matter what method I use to teach it.
2. Incorporate Technology and Social Media
Advertising is all about communication. History is all about communicating the story of the past. But some people might wonder what things like Facebook, Twitter, advertisements, and blogging have to do with history. I’d say this: A Facebook page about a Navajo Code Talker and a Twitter feed about Franklin D. Roosevelt create student interest. Asking students to create an advertisement for Theodore Roosevelt’s Square Deal or a blog post about immigration reform from a muckraker’s perspective are way more intriguing than a book report, and also provide limitless opportunities to display mastery.
3. Accept That You Aren’t Going to Know it All
Teachers are meant to teach skills, encourage thinking, and present learning opportunities. In my advertising studies, I had to learn to look at concepts from an unbiased point of view. I had to study my audience and figure out how to get them to see the value within the product. The same is true for history. I’m not here to tell my students exactly how to interpret what happened throughout history; instead, I give them the tools to analyze it from their own perspective. I’m there for them to uncover how the lessons and concepts within history can be directly meaningful to their lives.
At the end of the day, whether you are an advertising major teaching history, a business major teaching science, or a history major teaching math, you can utilize what you know and love to produce the greatest results in the classroom. It’s not about what you know (or don’t know), but instead how you use what you know in a meaningful way.